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Foreigners to be given free HIV treatment in England

UK government has decided to offer foreign nationals free treatment for HIV on the NHS.

At the moment treatment for HIV is only available to people officially resident in Britain, excluding migrants. All migrants, including failed asylum seekers, students and tourists who want treatment for HIV have to pay for it.

About 25,000 people with undiagnosed HIV in Britain, many of whom were born abroad.

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "This measure will protect the public and brings HIV treatment in to line with all other infectious diseases. Treating people with HIV means they are very unlikely to pass the infection on to others."

Campaigners have welcomed the move, saying that it will reduce the risk of Britons being infected and cut the costs of more expensive later treatment.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said that for many years, they have been campaigning for HIV treatment to be free for all those who need it in England. “We regard the Government's commitment on this to be a huge achievement,” Ms. Jack said. “Free HIV treatment for all is a victory for public health and for the NHS.  Ensuring people living with HIV have access to the vital treatment they need is a huge step forward in tackling the spread of the virus in this country.  HIV treatment has huge preventive benefits and can reduce onward transmission by making HIV positive people significantly less infectious.”

Professor Jane Anderson, chairwoman of the British HIV Association, said the government’s decision to give free HIV treatment in England to all those who need it is “good news for people living in the UK who are HIV positive and also for public health in general."

HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust also welcomed the move. "We strongly support this move by the Government to bring HIV in line with all the other sexually transmitted infections which are free from charge on public health grounds,” Lisa Power, Policy Director for Terrence Higgins Trust, said. “It makes no sense to deny people medication that dramatically reduces the risk of them passing on their infection to others. Leaving people without treatment also means the NHS pays far more further down the line when someone's health fails and they need emergency care. These changes will protect more people from HIV infection in the UK and will save the NHS money in the longer term."

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